Expert: Bronx Hospital ‘Depends on Pharmacists’ to Vaccinate Against COVID-19

Rosemarie Leighton, RPh, director of pharmacy, NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi, discussed the coordination of COVID-19 vaccinations at the Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.

Pharmacy Times® interviewed Rosemarie Leighton, RPh, director of pharmacy, NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi, to discuss the coordination of COVID-19 vaccinations at the Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.

Alana Hippensteele: So, Rosemarie, what has the coordination of COVID-19 vaccinations been like at your hospital since COVID-19 vaccines became available at the end of last year?

Rosemarie Leighton: The coordination has been a big project at Jacobi involving many disciplines, but we were all engaged, and we were all committed to making sure that this process worked well because we all understood the importance of these vaccines.

I think what worked well for us was all of the preparation that we did. We started with making sure that we had the freezer for the Pfizer vaccine. That involved getting the electricians to come in just to make sure that we had the proper electricity, and everyone was so proud to be a part of this because we all understood what it actually meant.

We all created standard operating procedures, so that we would all be functioning the same way. We had daily meetings, and we discussed all of our different ideas, and we discussed all the information that was coming out.

Our goal was to be prepared to vaccinate all New Yorkers as soon as they became eligible.

Alana Hippensteele: Right, right. How has the coordination of vaccinations changed over the past few months?

Rosemarie Leighton: The coordination has now become so much more efficient and streamlined. The key to our success, I think, was the fact that we remained so flexible and adaptable to the constant changing of the guidance, and all of the information that just kept coming across to us. We did this by constantly communicating.

I had my little trio, which consisted of my nursing administrator at Jacobi, my hospital administrator at Jacobi, and myself. We would literally meet every single day, including weekends, in the beginning to make sure that our process was working.

We would look at everything—we would look at what was going well, what was not going well, and we were willing to change if we needed to. Whenever we decided to make a change, we would always make sure that we all agreed upon it, and that we were comfortable with making that change, so that we could move the process forward.

Each time we made that change, we made sure that we remained true to our commitment to vaccinate as many eligible New Yorkers as possible.

Alana Hippensteele: Right, and what do you foresee as being the trajectory for COVID-19 vaccinations at your hospital in the future, and do you believe the process may change over time?

Rosemarie Leighton: I think the COVID-19 vaccine is going to be a big part of how we care for our patients and how we care for each other.

We are always going to have people that are against vaccinations, or people who are against this particular vaccination because they are not sure or it hasn't been around long enough. But Jacobi will continue to offer the vaccine, and we will continue to educate everyone on the safety of the vaccine, and how important it is for all of our health.

Alana Hippensteele: Yeah, absolutely. What has been the value of the pharmacist during COVID-19 vaccinations at your hospital?

Rosemarie Leighton: The pharmacist is a critical member of Jacobi’s health care team. We are trained in every aspect of drug management, and that involves ordering enough supplies and making sure that we have enough supply so that we can take care of our patients.

We would have to monitor shortages just to make sure that we can purchase these drugs that we definitely needed, and we were able to compound the monoclonal antibodies that would help patients maybe not be admitted to the hospital.

We brought it down to drawing up that precise dose for the vaccine. That's what we're trained for, that's what we do well, and our hospital depended on us to do that.

Alana Hippensteele: Right. What are your hopes for the future of pharmacy after the struggles of the past year?

Rosemarie Leighton: My hope for the future of pharmacy is that pharmacy remains strong and viewed as an equal member of the health care team. We should never be thought of as that group in the basement or that person in the back counting out pills.

When a patient reflects on their own health and they think of their doctor and their nurse, they will now include and consider the pharmacist as a vital member of their team and someone who is concerned about their wellbeing.

Alana Hippensteele: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, Rosemary.

Rosemarie Leighton: You're very welcome, it was my pleasure. Thank you.